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evidence of the sort, is permitted by the version to remain? Of the Ebionites and the Nazarenes, who only are acknowledged to have possessed Christian verity,' while all the rest of Christendom were apostates from it, the former became lost during the fifth century, and the latter survived but a little longer. Now although a Church corrupt in doctrine may give true testimony to a fact, and perhaps be credited the more because of its bearings on her errours; yet, when found to have borne false testimony in regard to a great proportion of the volume, she may well be suspected of imposition as to the whole. Accordingly, on the admission of the authority of the Ebionites, we must perceive the chain of testimony to have been long since broken,
If recourse should be had to the general principles of criticism, as on any question which might be raised concerning the work of some Greek or Latin author, the merits of the case can be judged of by men of letters only. The other species of evidence is addressed to persons of ordinary standings in society; who, under the new maxims of the version, must submit their judgments implicitly to those whom they think the most worthy of their confidence. And thus, under the plausible appearance of unbounded freedom of inquiry, a foundation is laid for the most implicit subjection to authority.
In the second note of the version, sundry reasons, grounded on the contents of the two chapters, are offered in vindication of the excluding of them. Of those reasons, the only one that seems material, or that can be reduced to a question of fact, alleges the birth of Jesus to have been subsequent to the decease of Herod. This is a mistake; and might have been prevented, by a reference either to the most approved tables of chronology; or to those bibles, the inargins of which intimate, that the former event was a few years before what is there called "Anno Domini." It is a well known point in chronology, that when Christian Churches and states began to date transactions according to their respective distances from the birth of
Christ, there was incurred the errour of about four years. It makes no difference in the affairs of life; but ought to have been known and adverted to, by those who sat in judgment on the merits of the first two chapters of St. Matthew.
While the Improvers wrongfully accuse the common version of an anachronism of two years and a half, they incur the like fault, to an extent far greater. It is but for the eye of a reader, to connect the first verse of the third chapter with the retained verses of the first; in order to perceive, that the beginning of the preaching of the Baptist is made cotemporaneous with the nativity of Christ. Some suppose, that the gospel of St. Matthew was composed about eight years after the crucifixion. The longest interval supposed by any, is less than double that time. Now it can hardly be imagined of any writer, that contemplating to record two events, one of which happened nearly half a century, and the other less than half of that space of time before the date of the intended work, he should say, after narrating the event first in order-" In those days it came to pass, &c." according to the tenour of the last of the events. It appears from Luke iii. 23, that Jesus was about thirty years old, when he began his ministry. Accordingly, supposing him to have been born when John began to preach, which is declared* to have been in the fifteenth year of Tiberius, who began his reign about fifteen years after the death of Herod; the passage, as exhibited in the version, antedates the birth of the Saviour to the enormous length of about thirty years. But the term is shortened by about four years, according to the reckoning of some chronologists; who suppose, that the first four years of the reign of Tiberius coincide with the last years of the reign of Augustus: the latter having associated the other with him in government. This was no uncommon mode of reckoning: for Josephus, in his history of those times, makes the reign of Herod three years
*Luke iii. 1.
longer than circumstances prove it to have been; unless the first three years are considered as the same with so many of the last years of Antigonus, who reigned at the same time. If the two chapters of each of the two gospels be excluded, there is nothing to guard against the aforesaid anachronism; it not appearing from any other place, but that John may have been older than Jesus, by the whole specified space of time---twenty six years at the least.
Second Remark. Similar objections lie against the version, in its faulting of the first two chapters of the gospel of St. Luke; with the exception of the first four verses of the first chapter.
The Improvers have even less of the appearance of critical argument in this instance, than in that preceding. In a note, there are given the reasons of the license, of which two only shall be noticed; they being the most prominent, and depending on facts.
The first relates to the point already adverted to in chronology, the principles of which, as established by the general consent of men learned in that department, have been departed from, without any reasons given for the dissent. The other objection to the two chapters, is grounded on a copy said to have been possessed by Marcion, who is described as follows-" A reputed heretick of the second century; who, although he is represented by his adversaries as holding some extravagant opinions, was a man of learning and integrity, for any thing that appears to the contrary."
This reputed heretick held, that the world and the other planets were created by seven angels, without the knowledge of the benevolent Deity: for it was affirmed, that in addition to him, there was also a malignant being, who had all matter in subjection to his will. An abstract of the system may be seen in Mosheim's history,* taken from Irenæus. But it is not from him only, that the faith of Marcion may be learned. It may be gathered from several opposing treatises,
• Vol. 1 p. 217.
written by respectable authors. Accordingly there was no reason for the insinuation of the partiality of adversaries: who may indeed have mistaken or perverted his meaning, in such ways as are common in controversy; but would hardly have composed books in different times and places, against clearly defined errours not held.
As to his integrity; Epiphanius records of him, that in consequence of his seducing of a young woman, he was excommunicated by his father, a bishop; who is described as " a most religious man, and most ardent in the love of the truth, and excelling in the administration of the Episcopal office." The father being inexorable on the subject of readmission to communion, the son repaired to Rome, where also he was rejected. On this, he struck in with a sect already begun by one Cerdon; and being a man of learning, soon became the principal character among them. Epiphanius, who gives this account, is commonly considered as somewhat credulous. But he was a learned and a good bishop; and although living above a century after Marcion, described him while his sect was still in existence and numerous, in various parts of the world; and it does not appear, that there was ever a contradiction of the statement. But it seems he had a copy of the gospel of St. Luke, without the two chapters. What were the pretensions of the copy to authenticity, no one knows. Doubtless he had also some such reason, for rejecting-as he did-the whole of the other three gospels; and all the rest of the New Testament, except ten of the epistles of St. Paul; and the Old Testament in mass. These things are credibly recorded of him. In all which he ought to have been followed by the Improvers, according to the consistency of criticism; although they did not find it exacted of them, by the consistency of received theory. Under what correct principle of any sort, either the opinion or the testimony of such a man can have been introduced, is a question of another nature.
Third Remark. The version has taken liberties with the beginning of the gospel of St. John, not warranted by the Greek language, nor by the sentiments which appear to have been in the mind of the Evange list. The present remarks shall be confined to the first four verses and part of the fifth verse.
From the conviction, that agreeably to the testimony of Irenæus, the key to this remarkable passage of scripture is in an acquaintance with the idle philosophy of the Gnosticks, there shall be here given some of the leading sentiments of their system; but no further, than may help to show the intended contrast, according to the obvious construction of the words; and to compare this with the incorrect interpretations, and-as is here contended-the mistranslations in some instances, of the version.*
"The Word:" this is the subject of the first position; and it is adopted from the Gnostick theory, in order to rescue it from abuse. It depends on what will follow, to perceive the force of the intended contrariety to the Gnosticks. But, says the version, Jesus is here called "The Word;" according to the figure of metonymy; as in other places he is called-" the Life" -"the Way"-"the Truth"-and "the Resurrection." The instances are not parallel with the case in question. When one of those terms is used, Jesus is so distinctly spoken of, that the metonymy must be clearly understood: as when it is said-"I am the light of the world:" "I am the way:" and "I am the resurrection and the life." But let it be supposed, that any evangelist, speaking of some of the acts of Jesus, had said "the light," or "the way," or "the resurrection" conducted himself in this manner or the other;' and it must be perceived, that the language is utterly destitute of propriety.t
*The subject of this section is so mixed with that of the first and that of the second, as necessarily to occasion some degree of repetition.
† Lest it should seem unaccountable, that the Evangelist so far accommodates his discourse to the Gnostick theory, ale